When I blogged about our trip to upstate New York and dining at Roberto's in Jamestown, I wrote that I just had to make my own version of baked ziti, a classic Italian American dish. I actually did a few days later, and it turned out delicious, although on a whim I bought mozzarella in a rolled up sheet. It didn't look good even though it tasted good. The picture I took looked awful; the shot below is with shredded cheese, definitely the way to go. Feel free to add grated parmesan but for heaven's sake get freshly grated cheese or grate it yourself.
I wanted the ziti to be an easy dish for anyone to make, using easy ingredients for a quick dinner. It's not a 30 minute meal, but it's not taxing either. I used Trader Joe's organic marinara, but you can use your favorite bottled sauce, of course. I wanted the richness of mascarpone (kind of an Italian cream cheese) but feel free to use ricotta. On my second try just this week I saw a carton of Kefir Cheese Lebne, a type of spreadable yogurt. I tried it and really liked it. I found the Lebne at S-Mart Foods right here in Stockton. Baked ziti is not lasagna, and I feel the meat (sausage) should be treated like a condiment and not overload
the dish. But it's your dish; add more if you like.
1 lb package ziti
12 oz sweet Italian sausage
8 oz sliced cremini or button mushrooms
1 large medium dice shallot
1 bottle marinara of your choice
1/2 cup mascarpone
2 pinches salt if needed.
16 oz shredded mozzarella
Bring lots of water to a boil along with a tablespoon of salt. Add ziti and cook until barely al dente. Meanwhile, take sausage out of casings, crumble and cook in saute pan over medium heat. Remove sausage and add sliced mushrooms and diced shallot.
Cook until mushrooms are tender and most of liquid is cooked off. Add sausage back into pan along with marinara and mascarpone. Mix well and let simmer gently to thicken your sauce. Drain ziti and mix with sausage mixture along with half of the mozzarella. Pour into an approximately 10x15 baking dish. Spread the rest of the cheese on the top and bake at 350° for 30 minutes, then place under broiler for up to 5 min to caramelize the cheese and make the top noodles a little crunchy. Serves at least 6.
Restaurant Review: the day after Christmas Paul and I wanted to get out of town, not far, just to Napa. I wanted to try Go
Fish in St. Helena, just a bit up the road. As the name implies they serve fish and the inside of the restaurant looks kind of like a fish market, with lots of white tile. There's lots of unusual art too, strange really, which is right up my alley (check out their logo). I ordered the Hog Island Manila Clams; the little suckers were only about 1/2 inch long and about 30 or 40 in the bowl.
Man were they good, with white wine, butter, lots o' garlic and linquini. Paul, on the other hand, ordered fish and chips. Who does that? I mean order f&c in the Napa Valley? Anyway, he was displeased but didn't send them back. Teaching moment: when you get a dish that isn't prepared properly, SEND IT BACK. Explain why you don't like it (don't just say it sucks). And don't just pout and pay and never go back. Your provider deserves a chance to make it right and you deserve a good meal. Now, if you go to Sid's Grease Pit sending it back might not help. But you get my drift. My recommendation is to eat at Go Fish; you may love it.
Please leave me a comment and let me know if you try The Ziti.